Boat owners with vessels moored in non-tidal Thames marinas have been urged to ensure that they have paid their licence fee

The Environment Agency has urged boat owners moored at marinas on the non-tidal Thames to ensure they have paid their licence fee.

This warning comes as the navigation authority prepares to launch its annual enforcement drive on the river.

Following legal counsel, the EA has been reassured in its interpretation of the Inland Waterways Order (2010), which states that all boats kept on the non-tidal Thames must be registered, even those moored in marinas.

A spokesperson for the agency told MBM: “Marinas should be considered as public places, and there is a public right of navigation within them; they are part of the Thames and not private water.”

Boat owners who cannot produce up-to-date paperwork can be held liable for a £1,000 fine, and the EA estimates that around 7% fail to do so.

Regular visits by EA officers during the summer of 2012 found that evasion rates in Thames marinas vary hugely, from 5% to as much as 40% in some areas.

More than 30,000 boat owners use the EA’s waterways, according to the agency’s annual report, and craft registration fees range from £50 to £1,500 per year, with the majority paying between £300 and £500 per year.

Since the Coalition came to power in 2010, the Environment Agency has faced significant cuts in its Grant-in-Aid, resulting in a three-year agreement to annually increase boating licence fees by 2% above the CPI rate of inflation.

“Registration charges make a vital contribution to the cost of delivering a navigation service on the Thames, boosting the substantial but reducing contribution made by government,” the EA statement continued.

“We are working to make the management of our waterways more financially sustainable and less reliant upon government, through a variety of initiatives including commercial development, volunteering and enforcement.”

Tony

Riley, general secretary of the Thames MotorBoaters Association, welcomed the

news of an enforcement drive, but expressed some concerns:

“Recent

major cuts in government funding leave motor boaters between a rock and a

hard place with licence fees rising at above inflation year-on-year

coupled with continuing reductions in services.

“The

River Thames is a public waterway and a national asset, a commercial and recreational

resource enjoyed by millions of people.

 “It is unreasonable to expect the major share of this burden to fall on just one group of users and the TMBA will continue to highlight the need for alternative sources of funding for the river.”